My iPhone Review

As previously mentioned, I was the first iPhone buyer at the AT&T store nearest to my house. While there’s no shortage of iPhone reviews out there, I’m not a professional reviewer, so my focus is on how well it does the things I need it to do.


Choosing a model

I chose the 8GB model, simply because when I purchased the original iPod, I had the 5GB model and spent about a year managing songs because I kept running out of space. While 8GB clearly isn’t large enough for my entire music library, that’s why I have my other iPod. I planned on using the iPhone solely for podcasts and video. Since I have been traveling quite a bit, I needed one that I could comfortably store about 2-3 hours of video. To give you an idea on space requirements, an hour long TV show with the commercials edited out tends to be around 250 MB at 320×200. A two-hour long movie at 640×400 is about 1.33 GB. The decision I’ll need to make is how much music to put on it. I’ve got over 2200 songs in my full library. I put together a playlist of my favorite artists which wound up being 479 songs at 3.01 GB. The normal collection of daily/weekly updating podcasts took up about 300 MB, so clearly, the music library will be where I need to do some creative management. If you don’t already have an iPod, the smaller storage will be an issue if you want to carry your full music library. Given this requirement, I think a nice improvement would be a means to designate a certain amount of space for music and then tell iTunes to fill it with random music, just as you can do with the shuffle.


Activation went without a hitch for me. I had no issues whatsoever. I transferred my existing phone number from T-Mobile, and even that only took about 15 minutes to complete. So, my experience here was very, very good. While I had my laptop with me, I waited until I got home to activate, as my battery was down to about 6% after using it while I was waiting in line. I didn’t want to take a chance on having it go dead during activation.

Signal Strength and Call Quality

T-Mobile’s signal strength in my house has always been weak. While I’m in a coverage zone, the particular geography around my house doesn’t lend itself to a strong signal with T-Mobile unless I’m on the top floor. AT&T’s strength likewise goes down as I go downstairs, but is far better. The first call I made (while on the top floor) was crystal clear. This was a significant improvement over T-Mobile. For reference, I was previously using a Motorola V360.

The Calling Interface

I found myself wanting an Address Book icon on the home page. To get to your contacts, you first have to enter into phone mode, and then access your contacts. Once you’re there, making a call is a snap. Cycling through my contact list on my V360 was a slow painful process, the UI on the iPhone makes it a snap. One of the first things I did after using the iPhone once was to put a lot more contacts into the group that I sync with my phone, because it’s so much more manageable.

The second thing that I really liked was the ability to hold a conversation on the speaker phone and run other applications. I was talking to my mom and needed to write something down. She asked if I had a pencil, and I instead tried something out. I put her on speakerphone, hit the Home button, and then launched Notes. The whole time, I could keep the conversation going and just typed as she talked. This was very cool.

The On-Screen Keyboard

I think the pre-release reviews were right on with this one. Overall, it takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s far better than I expected. I think with some practice, it will easily be nearly as fast as a tactile keyboard. The visual and audio cues are more than enough feedback. The only slightly awkward thing is that the automatic word correction is accepted when you hit space bar. If you’ve typed in a word and it is suggesting something else, you have a problem if you just hit space to keep typing the next sentence. Perhaps this will encourage us techies to stop talking in acronyms, because that’s typically where you’ll run into this situation!

Connecting to the Network

Configuring it to use my WiFi network was a bit tricky. It came up with a list of networks to choose from, but I only saw my neighbors’. My access point doesn’t advertise its name, so I needed to manually type it in. The popup that shows up when it detects access points doesn’t allow you to do this. You have to go to the home menu and then to Settings to manually enter a network name. This is a one-time operation, as it remembers past settings. It would have been more convenient to add an “Other…” option to the default popup.

The speed has not been an issue with me. I’ve brought up web pages (ESPN) and Google Maps when on the EDGE network at the local Dairy Queen as well as at a friend’s house, and the speed was acceptable. It’s certainly not as fast as my Sprint Broadband modem (U720), but for what I need to use the iPhone for, it was fine. Incidentally, I had Google Maps on Satellite mode, so I was probably downloading more data than normal maps usage, and I still found it just fine.

The iPod

The iPod capabilities are outstanding. When people complain about the higher price of this compared to other smartphones, you really need to consider the interface presented for watching videos and listening to music. Besides the truly outstanding screen which makes video watching far more enjoyable than on my current Video iPod, the experience is just great. This alone I think justifies the price difference between a typical smartphone and the iPhone.

Surfing the Web

I’m really surprised at how well the experience is. The logic they’ve put in place to scale the display even when fully zoomed out is outstanding. The zooming experience is even better. The only trick is when you’ve got some ad-heavy page being displayed. You’re best off letting the whole page load, doing a nice slow zoom-in, and then clicking on what you need. I’ve had an occasion where I wanted to zoom, tapped to quickly and inadvertently clicked on some add, because the page was zoomed out. The one slick feature I like is how the Safari controls disappear once the page is fully loaded, and only show up when you pan the page back to the top. This reserves more screen space for working with the page.

I would like to see more pages optimized for the iPhone. For example, I frequently go to the MLB scores page on While it’s fully usable on the iPhone, having a version that was specifically designed for the iPhone interface would be even better. For example, the page should be optimized so that if you are viewing it in landscape mode, the screen would be filled with the line score for one game. I expect we’ll see more and more of this as the iPhone agent starts showing up in people’s log results.


The camera has performed very well for me. Despite not having a flash, the quality of pictures taken indoors at night with normal interior lighting has been very good. Once again, the integration and ability to send pictures to contacts was far less clunky than on my old Motorola phone.


Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. I think it’s worth every penny I paid for it. Just as with the original iPod, it’s not that Apple is providing some particular functionality that other phones don’t have, it’s the way that Apple has made that functionality available to the end user that makes the difference. This is something that you really can’t put into words, as you have to use it to understand it. I think Apple’s videos have done a good job in showing this. If you just look at a feature list, and compare it based on checkmarks, you won’t really understand what the difference is. About the only knock I have on the user interface is that I find myself wishing for a “back” button on many occasions. For example, if you click on a link in email, it opens Safari. To get back to email, you need to go to the home menu, and then email. I’d prefer than if I closed the Safari window or had a back arrow, that it would take me back to email. Outside of this, the user experience is simply outstanding. Yes, I’d like to see an AIM or Jabber client on it, but I expect that will come. On a five-star scale, I’d definitely give the device 5 stars. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Can this phone be considered an elite smartphone? Yes.

One Response to “My iPhone Review”

  • […] Hopefully, you’ll give some of these older items a read. Just as I encouraged in my feedback loop post, I do leverage Google Analytics to see what people are reading, and to see what items have staying power. There’s always a spike when an entry is first posted (e.g. my iPhone review), and links from other sites always boost things up. Once a post has been up for a month, it’s good to go back and see what people are still finding through searches, etc. […]

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